Scientists are professional writers. Writing refines data into understanding, focuses motivation into action, organizes argument into theory—it turns good science into papers that get cited and grants that get funded. Writing of that quality requires good storytelling.
Technical skill underpins our scientific work, but to share that work with our field and our broader audience we must write. Our goal, in other words, is not data generation. Rather, we must infer from that data information, interpret from that information knowledge, and synthesize from that knowledge understanding. We ascend that path through writing. But that writing lacks clarity, persuasion, and flow until we learn to tell it as a story.
The scientist, even the scientist-writer may balk at identifying as a storyteller. Yet, stories invigorate writing. For the scientist, they transform boring data into intriguing theories. We must learn to tell these stories well.
Storytelling principles strengthen all elements of writing. Even the straightforward framework of opening, challenge, action, resolution may be applied throughout a scientist’s work. Paper structure, paragraph flow, and sentence strength all benefit from these storytelling frameworks. Writing Science teaches the scientist-writer to apply these frameworks throughout and transform their work into engaging, citable, fundable stories.
If calling myself a writer was a stretch, identifying as a storyteller was a leap. But I’ve found the framework to be quite powerful. We all know stories that engage, entertain, clarify. Why should our scientific writing be any different?
It fascinates me how Writing Science applies storytelling to many aspects of scientific writing. This has challenged my writing conventions. Framing a research gap is, for example, not a defensive monologue but a chance to pique the reader’s curiosity—a storytelling necessity. Limitations, likewise, belong early in the story rather than at the end—where a good story puts its most prominent topic. Thanks, Joshua Schimel, for these and other inspirations. I wish I’d had them sooner.
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